What is the Type 1 Diabetes Honeymoon Period?

What is the Type 1 Diabetes Honeymoon Period?

After my type 1 diabetes diagnosis I was put on regular insulin injections to control blood glucose levels within a narrow recommended range. Doctors explained to me that type 1 diabetes is an auto-immune condition where the body attacks the insulin producing beta cells in the pancreas. As a result insulin can no longer be produced naturally so exogenous insulin will be required from now on.

Over the course of the first few weeks as a brand new type 1 diabetic I started getting used to the amount of insulin to administer to get this blood glucose balancing act right, however shortly after something strange happened. I noticed my blood sugars were regularly dropping unusually low. I was experiencing hypos almost every day. Naturally I assumed I was taking too much insulin so I gradually dropped both my rapid and basal doses. This didn't fix things though and shortly after I found myself taking no rapid insulin whatsoever throughout the day but yet my blood glucose levels remained low. How could this be?

To tell the truth I was sceptical about my diagnosis. Maybe the doctors had missed something or they'd used a faulty glucose monitor to diagnose me. Maybe I didn't have type 1 diabetes at all. Clinging to this thread of hope I booked an appointment with my diabetic professional and quite confidently told him I was doubtful about the diagnosis he had given me just a few weeks earlier. At this point I was given an antibody test which would be able to 100% confirm the diagnosis and unfortunately it did. The question still remained though, how was I able to maintain normal blood glucose levels without taking exogenous insulin if my pancreas was unable to make insulin naturally? The answer was something called the honeymoon period.

When I first started taking exogenous insulin after my initial diagnosis it gave my pancreas a break which in turn stimulated it to produce insulin from the remaining beta cells. It turns out that symptoms of type 1 diabetes usually start when you have only 30% of the beta cells left. During this honeymoon period it is much easier to control blood glucose levels as the body still has some ability to control it naturally. The honeymoon period doesn't last forever though. For me, it went on for a few months before greater amounts of insulin were required to keep blood glucose at levels that had previously required little to no insulin.

Although common, not everyone who is diagnosed with type 1 diabetes will experience the honeymoon period. For those that do, it can last for weeks, months or even years. Within these timeframes the effect of the honeymoon period may also fluctuate. You may notice that some days or weeks require significantly more or less exogenous insulin than others.

The honeymoon period occurs shortly after diagnosis while the beta cells in the pancreas still have some ability to produce insulin. There is limited research to suggest this period can be extended by maintaining good glucose control, exercising and even supplementing vitamin D3. If you have had type 1 diabetes for a number of years and notice a similar effect, this is likely due to improved insulin sensitivity rather than the pancreas re-commencing insulin production. There are several factors that can affect insulin sensitivity such as diet, exercise, intermittent fasting and supplementation.

For type 1 diabetics the honeymoon period can certainly be helpful in controlled blood sugars but it doesn't last forever. It's extremely important to closely monitor your blood glucose levels during this period and consult your diabetic professional for advice on adjusting insulin administration to suit your specific needs.

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